You’ve probably heard the phrase “everything happens for a reason.” Many of us believe this is true and that – ultimately – we wind up where we’re supposed to be, doing what we should be doing. I think about this when I ponder how my bagpiping got started.
My childhood was one of moving around a lot. My father worked as a manager for a department store chain and was busy moving from store to store as the company opened more and more locations in Southern California when I was young. As such, I became accustomed to changing schools often, making new friends, and looking for new activities in each new location where Dad’s job landed us.
When I was in 10th grade, we moved to La Mesa, California and I was enrolled at Helix High School. Unbeknownst to me, Helix HS had a pipe band, established as a complement to their mascot, the Highlander. So, the pipe band represented that name.
Of course, I didn’t know about bagpipes at that time and wouldn’t have been able to describe how they looked and what they sounded like. But having heard the sound of the practicing bagpipe band one day after school, I became intrigued and decided to join, excited about my new venture.
That was more than 40 years ago (closer to 50, actually!) and I still enjoy playing and teaching, and am especially excited to help others get started.
Taking the first step
The first step towards learning to play the pipes really isn’t difficult and it doesn’t demand a large investment. Put away the notion that you need to buy an expensive set of pipes because that doesn’t come until much later…and there are plenty of cost options available.
To get started, you need just three things:
- An inexpensive practice chanter (usually about $75)
- A good method that allows you to learn not only the pipes but provides you with general music knowledge as well
- A skilled and experienced teacher to teach that method
Of course, you’ll also need to be willing to invest your time because learning anything new takes commitment, right? To start, that might just be about 15 minutes a day or the amount of time it takes to drink that extra cup of coffee or watch that silly YouTube video!
Bagpipes for Beginners
The bagpipes are a unique instrument that often falls into the category of “folk” instrument. Just like other such instruments or like folk music in general, it is often taught by rote or imitation. That means, traditionally, many bagpipers didn’t – and still don’t – read music. That greatly limits their ability to learn new music.
With my “Bagpipes for Beginners” program, I’ve taken the bagpipe to a different level, teaching it as one would teach any traditional orchestra or band instrument. That means my students learn in a more all-encompassing manner. I teach note reading and rhythm as well as the other specifics necessarily to become a skilled player who can play whatever songs they’d like to learn.
That also eliminates the need for the bagpiper to be a lifelong student, providing them with the skills to eventually learn on their own.
To recap, with the use of the Bagpipe for Beginners method, you’ll
- Learn to read notation and rhythm
- Learn how to play the most common bagpipe tunes, often referred to as the Mass Band Tunes
- Be tutored in practice skills that solve musical and technique problems that arise while playing the Great Highland Bagpipe of Scotland.
- Learn to become a “musical” bagpiper, taking into consideration all the musical tools that allow you to play not only proficiently but also expressively.
So how long will it take?
No one wants to spend years learning a new hobby! If you follow my Bagpipes for Beginners program and practice regularly, you can expect to be proficient in 2 to 5 years, depending on how much time you devote to your new project.
That’s because I’ve done the hard work for you! I’ve spent 22 years developing and refining this program so as to bring you the tools that allow you to learn quickly and learn well.
With the help of a patient and skilled instructor, a good daily practice routine, and the desire to succeed, you’ll be a bagpiper in no time at all.